Sep 7, 2021 - Science

NASA's Perseverance rover collects first Mars rock sample

A rock inside of one of Perseverance's sampling tubes

A rock inside of one of Perseverance's sampling tubes. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS

NASA's Perseverance rover collected its first sample of a rock on Mars.

Why it matters: This sample and others in the future are expected to help scientists figure out whether the Red Planet once played host to life in its habitable environments billions of years ago.

Driving the news: Perseverance successfully collected the rock sample last week, beaming images back to mission controllers on Earth showing its sample tube full of material.

  • The rover's first sampling attempt in early August ended in failure when the rock it was working with crumbled as Perseverance tried to collect its sample.
  • NASA then instituted new protocols like scraping away a bit of the rock to see how it stands up to make sure the rover didn't fail at another collection attempt.
  • "The team determined a location, and selected and cored a viable and scientifically valuable rock. We did what we came to do," Jennifer Trosper, project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, said in a statement.

What's next: Perseverance will now store the sealed tube holding the rock sample ahead of a future return to Earth with another mission.

  • By returning samples to scientists, researchers will be able to use high-powered tools on the planet that are far better than any analytical instruments they can send to space aboard a rover or lander.

Go deeper: The golden age of space-sample returns

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